Thinking About...

One year ago...and anticipating next Monday.  Today we look back, but I hope Monday is about looking forward.  I am expecting a big, beautiful party to celebrate life, strength, community, and love.  I will be there.  


Memories, Stress, and other Stuff of Life

I feel like we are finally turning the corner into Spring.  Granted, that means lots of rainy and cool days, but it also means the occasional sunny and warm day, teasing us with a glimpse of what's to come.  Today is one of those rainy days, but we did get some sunshine over the weekend.  We went to our first Red Sox game of the season.   To me, baseball is one of the best signs of Spring.  It was a cool but sunny day, and we had a great time.  After the game, they allowed kids to run the bases on the field.  It was so much fun to watch them run as fast as they could around each base!  I often think, as they get cool opportunities like this....will they remember it when they get older?  As I think back on my earliest memories, it's interesting which moments I've retained.  Some of them are the "bigger" or more unique days, but most of them aren't at all, and I wonder how or why some memories stay with us over others.

I mentioned that I haven't been feeling great in the last couple weeks.  Part of it is physical - not sleeping well, upset stomach - and part of it is stress.  As my sister astutely pointed out, most likely those things are related.  As you know, I'm not currently working, but the plan has always been for me to return to work in the Fall, once Nathan starts school.  We are getting closer to that time, and my job search is slowly kicking into gear.  I'm trying, and apparently failing, not to let it stress me out.  I simply don't want to go back to the way it was before.  The boys are older now, but in many ways the logistics have become harder, with after-school activities and other considerations.  At this point, though, it is mostly a fear of the unknown.  I will try to let that go, and I will deal with issues as they arise.  Easier said than done, of course, but I will try. 

What else is on my mind?  Dinner.  I swear, the energy it takes to figure out what to make every single night is tremendous.  I get lazy at times, especially when Kevin's not home for dinner, but I don't like to do that very often.  I want to make sure my family is eating a variety of healthy meals.  Do you have any family-friendly favorites you'd like to share with me?  I need some inspiration.

Have you heard of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey?  If you haven't, you should.  It's a 13-episode series being shown on Fox and National Geographic.  It's a revival of a show created by Carl Sagan in 1980, and this current version is hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, for whom I've professed my admiration before.  It's really well done, and it's fascinating.  We've been watching it with Aaron, and it has prompted some interesting conversations.  It's really, really cool.  

This song, and this song.  Sometimes music appeals to me because of the beat - it gets me dancing.  Sometimes it's because it's fun to sing.  Sometimes it's the lyrics that draw me in.  If you get all of that in one song...well.  The second one is by a band called Brown Bird.  The guy in that band is named Dave Lamb, and he died of leukemia over the weekend.  He was 35.  Newport Folk Festival posted this tribute to him.  

Sigh.  And with that I'll say good-bye for now.  Have a happy week.


J. Roddy Walston and the Business

The boys and I used to have dance parties every night after dinner.  Somehow over time, these stopped happening consistently.  More often, the boys choose to have races and wrestling matches.  I much prefer the dancing.  I have realized it may have to do with my music selections.  A couple years ago, it was The Black Keys who inspired our dancing.  I don't listen to a ton of music that gets us up on our feet and shaking our hips.  However, last night J. Roddy Walston and the Business did the trick.

I have to share one more video today, because this is the one that got me super excited for this year's Newport Folk Festival.  I am always excited for the festival - it's truly one of my favorite weekends of the year - but the anticipation gets amped up once the lineup is announced.  They aren't even quite done announcing all the artists, but I do know that two of the bands scheduled to play on our day are J. Roddy Walston and the Business and Shovels & Rope.  That makes me happy.  I hope they get together to sing this one...


A Few Things...

photo by Abby Hyslop

I've gone a bit quiet lately.  For several reasons, I suppose.  First is the desire to put the phone down, really live in the moments, and not feel the need to write a post about every single one.  It's good to take a step back at times.  Second is the fact that I'm tired and not feeling so great right now.  I haven't been sleeping well, waking up in the middle of the night with stomach pains.  Bleh.  And last is the simple reality of Spring.  I have a tendency to become more introspective around this time.  It's the weather, I suppose.  The changing of seasons which necessitates a change of pace and routine.  I washed and put away the snow pants and boots this week.  I am reviewing the boys' clothes to see what they need for the coming warmer weather.  It is coming!  And of course the desire to get the house and yard into shape.

There is a lot on my mind, and I will write more here soon.  In the meantime, here are some fun and interesting links from around the web...

Kevin Bacon explains the 80s to Millennials.  Funny, and speaking of Kevin Bacon, did you see his entrance on Fallon a couple weeks ago?  Made me smile.  Oh and speaking of The Tonight Show, did you see Jude Law?  Cracked. me. up.

Jack is back!  Who else loved 24?  Man those first couple seasons had me hooked.  It wasn't great after that and yet I kept coming back for more Jack.  I will definitely watch this, if only for old time's sake.

The Terrifyingly Nasty, Backstabbing, and Altogether Miserable World of the Suburban Mom.  This article is so sad.  I am thankful that I live in a fairly diverse town with great people.  I'm only a couple years in as a school mom, but so far I've met wonderful people and made great friends.  I'm confident that will only continue in the future.

Once again...I love Louis C.K.

Let Your Kids Fail.  Another reminder to take a step back, allow your children the opportunities to take risks, to try new things, to fail, and then to pick themselves back up again.  I'm happy at the seemingly increasing number of articles along these lines.  Perhaps the tide is turning.

The Locavore Myth.  This is an interesting article.  I suppose people make decisions about the food they buy for a large variety of reasons.  For some people, the impact to the environment is a huge factor.  For me, the biggest things are choosing food that is tasty, healthy, and palatable to my kids.  I do like supporting local farms, particularly my own neighborhood farm, but my motivation still goes back to those three factors.  Vegetables that are picked close to home are picked when they're ripe and not refrigerated for a long time in transit.  To me, the result is that they taste better and they have retained more of their vitamins.  My motivation to eat less meat again goes back to wanting to keep me and my family healthy more than the environmental impact, although that's a bonus for sure.  What are the biggest factors behind the food you buy?

Another blog post by my cousin Krista.  If you know anyone going through a divorce, please share.  She has been through it all, both as a child and as a parent, and she has wise words to share.

Another wonderful blog post by my cousin Tiffany.  (I know...I have very interesting and talented cousins!)


Things I Can Do at 40 That I Couldn't at 20...

source unknown

1.  Accept a compliment.

2.  Feel comfortable with my thighs.

3.  Roast a chicken.

4.  Give a presentation.

5.  Be confident.

6.  Buy something without going deeper into debt.

7.  Yoga.

8.  Express my own opinions.

9.  Manage someone else at work.

10.  Have a healthy and happy relationship.

11.  Make small talk.  (I still hate it, but I can do it.)

12.  Know my personal style.

13.  Laugh when little things go wrong.  (Most of the time.)

14.  Choose a good bottle of wine or beer.

15.  Be happy for others instead of jealous.

16.  Ignore whatever's popular and stay true to what I like.

17.  Not care what others think about me.

18.  Be a good mom.

19.  Seek out shade at the beach.

20.  Be optimistic.

source unknown


Turning 40...

So....I am 40.  It's funny, because I had been so positive in the months leading up to this milestone birthday, and then last week I got hit with a case of the worries.  I started thinking too much.  About how I never really figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up.  About how my waistline is not what it used to be.  About the little sag in the corner of my eyelids.  About some of the things I should've done in my twenties.  I wasn't sleeping well, I was feeling tired, and I was definitely letting the weather get to me.  (Ugh...Spring.  I'm happy it's here since it means we are one step closer to Summer, but for now it means cold, wet, muddy days.)

But that was last week.  I'm happy to report that today I'm back to my positive self, and I can honestly say that I am excited to be 40!   The perspective that comes with age is truly beautiful, and it's absolutely worth the wrinkles.   I am reminded that everyone is winging it, just doing the best they can.  I also remind myself that I am healthy and physically strong, and that is not something to take for granted.

When the boys were babies, I found myself looking forward to turning 40, because I knew we'd be in an easier parenting phase.  Now that I'm here, I can breathe a sigh of relief, because it is true.  The boys are four and seven years old, and I feel like we are entering the sweet spot of parenting.  We have sweet, silly, wonderful kids who are mostly independent but haven't hit any of the complications and issues that will arise as they enter the preteen/teen years.  Our dinner conversations consist of knock-knock jokes and animal facts.  "Mom, did you know that...?"  My kids educate me and make me laugh every day.  I love it and try to reciprocate as often as possible.

My husband is a year younger than I am.  This has never bothered me.  I'm deciding - right now, in fact - that it won't bother me now.  He will turn 39 next month.  The bastard.  ;-)  It's a good thing he still makes me laugh, and he tells me all the time that I am beautiful.  Everyone should have someone to tell them they are beautiful.  I am a lucky girl.

So what am I doing to celebrate?  Well, let's see... I had a wonderful weekend in NYC, I went to a concert by myself, my awesome sisters and husband surprised me with the best weekend, and we're going out to another concert weekend after next!  That's a full month of festivities!  I opened a fun package from my mom this morning, and my boys showered me with cards and pictures.  Although it's windy and snowy outside this morning, I feel warm and happy and loved.  My forties are looking pretty good so far.


Sister Surprise!


On Thursday night, I was in bed reading a book.  I heard Kevin pull into the driveway.  He had said he had to work late that night, and it wasn't that out of the ordinary, so I didn't think a thing of it.  But then I heard fast footsteps coming up the stairs, and my first thought was, "Why is he coming upstairs with his shoes on?"  I get annoyed when he doesn't take his shoes off.  This was the thought going through my head when my sister, Dawn, jumped into my bedroom!

Dawn lives in Barcelona!  She flew across an ocean to surprise me on the weekend before my birthday!  I was stunned.  We proceeded to have a really nice Friday, doing a little shopping and enjoying a fun lunch out while the boys were at school.  After we picked them up, we let them play on the playground, and I wanted to run a couple errands on the way home.  Dawn was antsy to get home, but I was seriously clueless and didn't pick up on it or wonder why.  When we got there, Kevin again pulled onto our road, and I was confused because he is never home that early, and then I saw my little sister in the car!  It was a double sister surprise!  

After all the laughs and hugs, Kevin told me that we had dinner reservations that night, and he also arranged spa appointments for us on Saturday morning.  We had such a fun night out.  I honestly can't remember the last time the three of us were able to have a long, uninterrupted conversation together - before kids, most certainly - and we had a whole weekend's worth!  It was so wonderful.  I am still smiling.  

They actually did the same thing on my 30th birthday, showing up at a restaurant where Kevin had taken me.  We had the best dinner and went out for champagne afterward, and we had a really fun weekend together back then too.  I warned them that now they've established a routine.  If they don't show up for my 50th, I'll be pretty upset.

Dawn and Em...thank you!  You guys are awesome.  

At dinner Friday night.  These two crack me (and themselves) up!

And here we are on my 30th.  We haven't changed much at all.


Broken Bells - Holding On For Life


Totally digging the new Broken Bells album, After the Disco.  Check it out.


Going Solo...

When I was in college, I went out quite a few times by myself.  One of my favorite things to do was to do to a local club to see concerts.  I went with friends a lot, but sometimes I couldn't find anyone to go with me for whatever reason, and I didn't let that stop me from going.  In fact, sometimes I actually preferred going alone.  Seeing music with friends who really like the band is awesome.  You can dance and sing the songs together, discuss your favorites, and it's great.  Seeing music with friends who are ambivalent about who they're watching is not as fun.  I find myself worried about whether or not they're having a good time, and it distracts me from really enjoying the music myself.

I've mentioned Throwing Muses here before.  I've been a fan since college.  Their latest album was their first in ten years, and when I heard they were going to tour a bit as well, I was super excited.  They scheduled a couple shows in Boston, and although I couldn't go to the Friday night show because I was going to be in New York, I found out they were going to come back and do a Monday night show.  I pulled the information up on the computer, and it sat there for a couple weeks.  I was undecided.  Should I go?  Who would I go with?  A Monday night?  I'm not in college any more.  But my husband noticed it, and asked if I was going.  I said I wasn't sure, and he said, "You should just do it.  How many other opportunities will you have to see them?  What if this is the last?"  It was the nudge I needed.   

I couldn't find a friend to go with me, being a Monday night and all.  (And the fact that none of my friends had ever heard of Throwing Muses probably didn't help.)  I also couldn't get a sitter on a Monday night, so I couldn't drag Kevin along.  So I decided to go by myself.  

And it was awesome.

I put a posting on Twitter to try to get rid of my extra ticket, and Tanya Donelly herself replied!  She actually met me at the club, and I tried not to look like I was nervous.  I was so excited to meet her, and she did not disappoint, being cute and sweet and gracious.  I got there early, so I got a good place to stand, and as the club filled up, I didn't move.  I watched.  I listened.  I sang and danced.  I took it all in.  I didn't have to worry about anybody else, and I had the best time.  I'm so happy Kevin pushed me to do it and reminded me that spending time alone is actually pretty wonderful.  

I've gone to movies by myself as well, and even eaten at restaurants solo.  I rather enjoy it, although I haven't done either in long time.  How about you?  Have you ever gone out by yourself?  If so, do you like it?  If not, what's stopping you?  


New York, New York

New York....it had been way too long.  I promise not to let that much time go by before my next visit.   As we drove into the city and stepped out of the car, feeling excited and happy that our day got off to an excellent start by finding a free parking space, I was instantly transported back to a different time.  Those carefree days before kids.  I love my life, but it's nice to be able to step outside of it every now and then.  It gives us perspective, helps us appreciate all we have.  And it gives us a break!

I spent the day with one of my best friends.  We started the day with massages, which is an excellent way to start any day.  We met two other friends for lunch and had the best time relishing our freedom.    We moved at our own pace, reminding ourselves how different that is from the everyday at home, when we are responsible for moving at the speed of our kids.  We of course talked about our kids and husbands, but we also talked about life, work, movies, home, and how much fun we were having.  An uninterrupted adult conversation is a beautiful thing.  

We saw 'Once' on Broadway, and it was spectacular.  I was moved by the play and awestruck at the amount of talent displayed on the stage.  So amazing.  We ended the night at a karaoke club with another group of friends.  If you've only done karaoke a few times as I have, each outing will prove to be so memorable and hysterical that you will remember every song.  As familiar songs were chosen, I was instantly reminded of other nights.  Alanis Morissette brought me back to college, singing at a house party with my little sister.  Guns 'N Roses brought me back to my older sister's bachelorette party.  

We got a few hours of sleep before getting up, enjoying a New York bagel, and heading back to our families.  My cheeks hurt from smiling, my throat hurt from singing/screaming, and my heart was full from spending time with friends.  It was a beautiful weekend, and the perfect way to begin the 40th celebrations.  

I forgot how bright it is in Times Square.


The Falls - Into the Fire

photo via Philthy Mag

Falls is a duo from Sydney, and they recently released their first EP in the US, entitled Into The Fire.  It's lovely.  (*If you look for them on YouTube, they use 'The Falls'.  On iTunes/Amazon, they are just 'Falls'.  Kind of tough, having a somewhat generic name, but they are worth searching for.)


A Few Things...

Even though I may not write much during these cold and dreary days, I do read quite a bit and spend too much time on the computer.  Here are a few things that I came across this week.  Enjoy!

Lupita Nyong'o gives a speech on beauty.  Her voice is as beautiful as her face, and her words are the best of all.  So lovely.

The latest from my cousin Tiffany.   She was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer last year, and she has been on an incredible journey ever since.  She's giving up the fight against it and has decided instead to live.  This is a powerful post, and I feel privileged to have Tiffany as a part of my family.

The 5 questions you didn't want to ask about Ukraine.  If you're still trying to figure out what the heck is going on over there, this is a good place to start.

How going undercover made me appreciate my privilege.  As a white, reasonably attractive, well-educated woman with means, I can relate to this post.

Kids are assholes.  Louis CK cracks me up.  I'm giggling now as I think about this.

50 Healthy Habits Every Girl Should Have.  How many of these do you have or need to improve upon?  I'm doing okay, but I can always do better.

I loved this comic strip by Bill Watterson.

This photo shoot with John Schneider will move you.

This post at Hands-Free Mama resonated with me.  I mostly use my phone for playing music at home, but I still want to limit how much I'm looking at it.

Menu of the Week

Marinated Chicken, Kale-Brussels Hash, Oven Fries
This week's new recipe, from Dinner: A Love Story.  Wonderful marinade that results in moist, flavorful chicken.  As I've said before, I'm not a huge chicken fan any more, but I liked this one a lot. The hash recipe is from the same place, and it's a good and different way to cook kale.  The boys didn't eat it, unfortunately - they stuck to carrot sticks and pepper slices instead.

Homemade Pizza, Salad
Easy to pull together and perfect on a Saturday night after a day on the slopes.

Pesto Orecchiette with Chicken Sausage, Salad
This has always been popular, but I undercooked the green beans and accidentally bought the wrong kind of sausage.  Ah well...it was alright, but this is typically a dish everyone gets excited about.

Potato, Corn, and Leek Chowder, Salad
A long-time favorite.  The kids actually said "Yay!" when I told them it was for dinner.

Turkey Burritos, Yellow Rice, Black Beans
Veggie burritos for me and the little guy.


Recently Read

The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller.  I loved this book.  The story is set in a post-apocalyptic world where most of the world's population is wiped out by disease.  It's different, it's poetic, it's moving.  It made me want to go camping, climb into the mountains, sleep outside, stare up in the night sky and wonder what it's all about.  I wish he used quotation marks (seriously that's just annoying), but that is really my only criticism.  It will make you think about what you'd do to survive, and what you'd need in order to want to survive.

The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.  I liked this book.  It's well-written, and it's thoughtful.  The main character is an orphan - your heart will break for her, and she will break your heart.  I was pulled in by the writing, the pace, the story...but I wasn't completely convinced by the characters.

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk.  I'm not big into self-help or psychology books.  I have always trusted my friends and family with my questions and problems.  That said, I found this book to be extremely valuable.  I bought it a year or so ago, because I was getting super frustrated by the boys' lack of listening.  I was yelling too much.  I have always felt that time outs were an ineffective discipline tool, but I didn't know what else to do.  So I picked up a couple books to get some different ideas.  This one doesn't have any easy answers (I didn't really expect any), but I learned a lot about the language that I should use with my kids.  It talks about discipline, but also praise, how not to pigeonhole your kids into specific roles (shy, stubborn, smart, etc.), how to get them to open up more...  I wish it contained more summary pages, but I think this is a book that I will keep on my nightstand and pick up often to remind myself of the way I want to communicate with my boys.


Cold and Magic...

Another week, come and gone.  Last week was a good one, catching up from a vacation week.  It led to a nice weekend, and we managed to fit in one more day of skiing.  Depending on the weather, it might be the last of the season for us.  I'm excited about how much we were able to do this year and how much the boys improved.  It's so much fun!  

Now that ski season is coming to an end, I am ready for the snow to go away and for Spring to make a sudden appearance.  We are entering my least favorite season - the wet, cold days of Spring.  So many people hate Winter, but I am not one of those people - it's Spring that punishes me.  I will spend the next two months waiting for the flowers and warmer days to arrive.  

Looking back at my archives, I notice that I write less in these months.  Perhaps the dark, muddy days aren't photogenic enough?  Perhaps I'm grumpy?  Probably both.  So my posting frequency may stay reduced for a bit.  Something about this weather reduces my motivation to write.  I am heavy in thought, but I pull myself back somehow.  That said, it is my big birthday month (40!).  I also want to find the magic in the everyday as much as possible.  We'll see how it goes.

As usual, I stayed up too late to watch the Oscars.  No surprises, but lots of beautiful people and fabulous performances.  The group selfie was probably the most fun moment of the night.  I did finally see Blue Jasmine, which I can't say I necessarily enjoyed; but I appreciated it very much, and Cate Blanchett's performance is stunning.  I still need to see 12 Years a Slave.  Soon.  

This week is shaping up to be a busy one, and I'm already looking forward to next weekend.  My birthday celebrations begin on Saturday, with a day in New York with friends.  I am so looking forward to it.  Even if it is gray and cold, New York is magical.  


Noah Gundersen - Ledges

This is what I've been listening to all week.  Noah Gundersen's first full-length album, Ledges.  You can listen to his full performance on KEXP here, and you should.  


Life Lately...

Braving the elements.  Cold, snowy days didn't keep us inside.  
Marveling at the view from the top.  
Feeling grateful we got that warm, gorgeous day.
Watching my boys glide down the slopes.  Aaron loves looking for jumps and trails in the trees.  Nathan has improved dramatically this season and is now fully independent.  His favorite trail had a relatively flat, narrow part through the trees, and there were no other skiers around.  He said he loved it because he could ski and have quiet time.  I love that.
Spending time with the best of friends.  
Taking a break from the normal home routines.
Watching the Olympics.
Enjoying a night out.
Relaxing in the hot tub each evening, appreciating the view of the mountain.
Reading.  Thinking.  Wondering.  Feeling.
Savoring those rare quiet moments.
Soaking in all the awesomeness of my boys.
Preparing myself to re-enter those home routines. 
Attending birthday parties.  
Getting together with more friends.  
Laundry, laundry, laundry.
Feeling happy.
Being grateful.  


Throwing Muses - Sunray Venus

Kristin Hersh and Throwing Muses.  Always a favorite.  Definitely a huge part of the soundtrack of my life.  

photo by c brandon/redfern


Recently Read - The Goldfinch

I just finished The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt.  It sounds like everybody I know is reading this book, and it is certainly making its rounds in blogland, so I thought I'd go ahead and throw out my opinion here.

It's a fascinating story, and the writing is gorgeous at times.  I am not one to highlight, but there were times I wish I had marked some of the more beautiful passages.  I felt for most of the characters, and I enjoyed the very descriptive writing.  Very different from other books I've read recently, where you get swept up in the story; this author is meticulous in setting up each scene, describing everything to the tiniest detail.  Sometimes, this is worthwhile, and other times, I wish she would just get on with it.

At almost 800 pages, it's simply too heavy-handed.  I feel like the story could've been told just as effectively and more enjoyably with about 200 fewer pages.  There were times I found myself skimming through some of the more descriptive paragraphs that did not advance the plot in any way.  But then I'd get caught up in a gorgeous, thoughtful sentence that would slow me back down.

"Isn't that the whole point of things--beautiful things--that they connect you to some larger beauty?"

Overall, it's wonderful.  But you have to work for it.


Getting Off The Couch...

I feel like I didn't leave the couch this weekend, but when I look back, I realize I did.  A pancake breakfast fundraiser at the school, out to see a movie with the kids, some errands, and an afternoon on the sledding hill.  Fill in the gaps with a lot of Olympics and movie-watching at home.  

I think I just wanted to stay on the couch all weekend.  I was fighting a cold and felt like I was walking in a fog.  I slept poorly and was therefore tired and impatient during the day.  A lot of apologies on my part as I sounded like Mommy Dearest at times.  They're boys, they're loud, they're slow when I want them to speed up and crazy when I want them to slow down.  I know this, I accept this, but I do not handle this well when I am not at my best.  

Even though I wasn't feeling well, I'm glad I got off the couch.  The pancakes were good, the movie (The Lego movie) was funny, the errands are now done, and the fresh air felt good as I mostly watched the boys sled.  It enabled them to get some of their energy out, which is an absolute necessity.

Although I stayed up way too late reading, as I always do when Kevin is out of town, I got a good night's sleep, and I woke up feeling whole again.  I had a productive day, and I'm energized to have a good week.  

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